With 162 games in the regular season, it is possible that some under the radar teams, or sleeper teams, can exceed expectations in a MLB season. For example, the Washington Nationals started the season 19-31 in 2019. They ended up not only making the playoffs, but winning the World Series. How many people thought they would win the World Series while they were 19-31?
Here are five potential sleeper teams that may exceed the expectations of some in the 2020 MLB season.
*Rankings are according to the first Major League Baseball Power Rankings of 2020*
Milwaukee Brewers (15)
Since ending their season with a Wild Card loss, the Brewers have lost some players as well. Yasmani Grandal is now with the Chicago White Sox, and Mike Moustakas is with the Cincinnati Reds. However, they added Omar Narvaez and Justin Smoak this offseason. Narvaez played with Seattle last season, and he had a solid season at the plate. He slashed .278/.353/.460 and hit 22 home runs in 132 games.
They also still have Christian Yelich who, in his two seasons with the club, won the NL MVP once and was the runner-up the following year.
They don’t have too many pitchers that stand out like Jacob deGrom or Gerrit Cole, but it is a rotation that can produce some balanced numbers on the mound this season. Brandon Woodruff had a notable year on the mound. He had 22 starts and a 3.01 FIP. He also made the Mid-Summer Classic. Corey Knebel could pitch for the first time since 2018, and has been projected to return in May of this year.
New York Mets (18)
The Mets have a lot of potential. They’ve had a pretty deep rotation the last few seasons, but now they have some players offensively that they didn’t a few years ago. Pete Alonso is entering his second big league season while Jeff McNeil is entering his third. These two made the All-Star game in 2019, and the stats can show why. Alonso won NL Rookie of the Year, finished seventh in the NL MVP voting, and hit a rookie record 53 homers. His teammate McNeil did not show as much power but he had 162 hits in 133 games which included 23 dingers and 38 doubles. If McNeil can be on base when Alonso hits, that can be a recipe for offensive success this season.
Carlos Beltran recently stepped down as manager before managing any games. This could be another reason why they may be seen as a sleeper team in the MLB by some.
Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
The Pirates have not made the Postseason since 2015. An excuse could be that the National League Central has been a tough conference in recent years. However, some fans aren’t going to take that and want to see this team play in October.
Some of their position players can have a breakout year in 2020. Two of them are Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds. Newman had more of an old-fashioned season at the plate. He had 152 hits with only 12 homers, which led to his .308 batting average. If he can find the gap and even the bleachers more, he can develop pretty quickly. Reynolds was a rookie in 2019. Like Newman, he also had a lot of hits with not too many homers (152 hits, 16 home runs). However, he did have a .377 OBP which helped him finish fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Their pitching rotation can be pretty unpredictable if it stands. They have some guys who have had All-Star seasons in the past, but also seasons that didn’t end so well. Chris Archer is an example of this. He had a season where he finished with a 3.23 ERA over 212 innings that included 252 strikeouts. Archer also had a season where he had a 5.19 ERA with a 1.412 WHIP. Getting back towards that first set of stats could help Archer and this Pirates rotation.
San Diego Padres (NR)
The Padres have not made the Postseason since 2006. October baseball could be an attainable goal for San Diego this season. They have an infield with big potential. Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. are entering their second season with the Padres (Tatis’ second big league year). Eric Hosmer is also a veteran who made an All-Star game and has four Gold Glove awards. Jurickson Profar signed a one-year contract and may play some games at second base this year. He has had 20 home runs in each of the last two seasons. Lasty, Francisco Mejia is a catcher who was a highly ranked prospect coming up, and he can have a breakout year behind the plate.
Kirby Yates should be the closer to start the season. He came in ninth in the NL Cy Young voting and made his first All-Star game. He had a 1.19 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 60 appearances. San Diego also signed Drew Pomeranz who may make some bullpen appearances in 2020. Their rotation can provide some useful innings as well. Chris Paddack is entering his second big league season. In 2019, he put up a 0.981 WHIP and a 3.33 ERA.
Texas Rangers (20)
The Rangers signed both Todd Frazier and Robinson Chirinos after the rankings came out, so it is possible they could be higher if the MLB did another ranking today.
The Rangers have multiple veterans on their roster. Elvis Andrus, Joey Gallo, Robinson Chirinos and Roughned Odor have all spent at least parts of five seasons with the club. That can help a team play better together. As previously mentioned, the Rangers added Todd Frazier, which will be his fifth MLB team. Frazier had 21 homers with the Mets in 2019, and he can hit even more this season with Globe Life being his home stadium, which is listed at 329 feet down the left field line.
The Rangers made more than one addition to their pitching staff this offseason. They acquired Corey Kluber in a trade as well as added Jordan Lyles. Corey Kluber has shown to be a talented pitcher. He has finished in the top three of the AL Cy Young voting four times; winning it twice. Kluber could be used as the ace this season.
Feature Image Courtesy of Flickr.